“Being” as a Holy Art

Contributed by: The Very Rev. Dr. Caroline Carson

It took me many years to consider myself a “real musician,” in spite of the many degrees I earned. In part, that was because I was constantly in awe of others’ talents and astounding levels of creativity. In truth, it was not only that, but a lifetime of low self-worth and some hefty self-consciousness and a hearty dash of self-inflicted judgment. I grew out of that with the help of growing up, friends, spiritual direction, counseling, and enthusiastically jumping into living my life. It is a very freeing journey. Over the years, I also allowed myself to participate in other areas of art: poetry, photography, cooking, listening, dancing, acting, and swordsmanship.

While I’m skilled in music, decent in photography, and enjoy eating my culinary forays, I also had fun trying Argentine tango, occasionally bursting forth with a clever or poignant line of poetic verse, and owning and strength training with swords. What helped me do all that wild and wacky stuff? The art that rose above it all, the one that continues to shape who I am at my soul’s core, and the skill that helps me flourish whether it be through silent prayer or actions….this is the fine art of being. When I realized that this too, was holy, my life changed dramatically for the better and it infused each area of artistic endeavor with sacred energy and healing. It helped me see how short our lives really are and how I had filled mine with so many emotional offscourings. It helped me let go of the psychological freightage I carried and opened me up for spiritual growth.

There is poetry in being. The flow of your life in tandem with the great skein of the God-filled universe, the all-pervading and all-comforting Holy Spirit, the vast love that is the eternal Logos. It can be harder than you think to simply be, without the pressures, expectations, and thoughts of the day, whether positive or negative, moving in your head and heart. It takes effort to be effortlessly at peace, without doing anything.

Not all poetry has strict structures. The stillness of God is always there, within reach, holding each of us. Our acknowledgement of God’s timelessness resonates with our heavily-scheduled lives in profound ways. It is amazing to be observant, but not engaged, to be present, but not focused. An expanse is created which connects our souls with the eternal. It always reminds me that “we meet God at the eschatological horizon in the sacraments.” I love that, especially as related to the Holy Eucharist. That holy moment, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, connecting then and now, the “pledge of future glory” as St. Thomas Aquinas described it. It is of both the present and the future. How do we prepare our hearts and minds for something that powerful? Or for any of the sacraments? One way is to practice simply being, without anxiety and without expectations thrust upon ourselves. Just, be.

When I want to simply be, I wander into nature and observe my surroundings, breathing in the sights, sounds, and air. What do you do?

~ Photo of sunrise from Beach Haven, NJ by Caroline Carson on January 17, 2023

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